Explosion in USA on January 23 2017 04:41 AM (UTC).
An explosion rocked the International Paper plant in Cantonment Sunday night, but fortunately, there were no injuries. Residents as far away as Milton reported hearing the loud explosion. Closer to the plant, residents were describing a black, slippery substance covering the road in front of the plant, 375 Muscogee Road. Escambia County Emergency Communications reported that calls began coming in at about 7:38 p.m. Sunday. Public Information Officer Joy Tsubooka said in a press release that all employees were accounted for, with no reports of fatalities or injuries. International Paper employees were evacuated. Grover Brown lives nearby and was headed to Wal-Mart when the explosion happen. He was stopped at a U.S. 29 intersection near the plant. Brown said the boom rocked his car. He said there was a moment of calm before a black, tar-like material started raining down and covering his car and the road. "I've never heard anything like it," he said. Bryant Watson was stopped at the same intersection. "I thought something had busted under my truck," Watson said. Watson said he was disoriented for a moment and then ran to Brown to see if he could help. "I thought maybe he was hurt," Watson said. The two men headed to a nearby convenience store and waited for help. First responders gave them surgical masks to help shield them from the fumes. A heavy chemical and smoke smell hung in the air. There were reports of power outages in the area, and falling ash has been reported. According to Tsubooka's release, the ash not hazardous and can be washed off skin with a mild soap and water. U.S. 29 and Muscogee Road near the plant were closed. Florida Highway Patrol advised drivers using U.S. 29 Southbound to take C.R. 196 to Jack Branch Road to Muscogee Road to Jack Branch to Kingsfield Road to U.S. 29. Reverse for northbound traffic. Escambia County School District Superintendent Malcolm Thomas announced via press release that no school closures would happen as a result of the explosion. "We are working with the Escambia County Administrator as they manage the situation following the explosion at International Paper's mill," Thomas said. "Our employees who need to travel through the affected area along U.S. 29 need to be alert to possible detours or heavy traffic." The school system's Transportation Department was working to create alternative bus routes created by any detours caused by the clean up efforts. All buses parked near the Mill have been checked and cleared.